Chatter at the Collegian


It’s one thing to put out a newspaper and quite another to get people to pay attention to the content.

So it has been fascinating to watch the Collegian staff aggressively using digital media to expand the paper’s reach from simply a Wednesday-only print product to something that is part of readers’ daily lives.

From live-tweeting events (@butlercollegian, @BUSportsWriters) to promoting the stories via Facebook and Twitter to creating online-only content that gets people talking, the Collegian staff has been making itself and its work part of the conversation.

Instead of thinking like newspaper people, they started thinking like students. They decided that if you want to reach students, you have to appeal to them in a number of ways.

Live tweeting. Some stories work better in print, editor in chief Julian Wyllie said – such as last week’s detailed cover story about Founder’s Week. But some are made for social media. Wyllie covered the January public forum about the new parking facility and tweeted as the discussion took place. (He did the same last semester during the memorial for Abdul-Rahman Kassig.)

Not many students care to attend public meetings, but a good, quick summary of the events through Twitter gives them the information they’d want about what restaurants and stores might end up in the retail space.

Proper timing. When do you use social media? Well, if you want to reach students, you might do that before 10 a.m. or after 4 p.m., when most students aren’t in class. “When they’re in class, they’re not necessarily thinking about what the Collegian is doing, or even what the world is doing,” Wyllie said. “But once I’m out of class, I’m on Twitter, I’m looking at my feed, I’m trying to see what’s going on with my friends.”

They have found that other good times to reach students include 7 p.m. (after dinner, before studying/evening activities) and Saturdays, when students might want a distraction from whatever they are doing.

Promoting. The paper comes out on Wednesdays and gets a big social media push. The top stories are shared, the front page goes up on Instagram. Then, throughout the week, other stories are given social media attention.

The idea, Wyllie said, is to space them out rather than dump them all at once.

“All these stories are already on the website,” he said. “If somebody wanted to read 30 articles from the Collegian today and the latest things happening on Butler’s campus, they can do that. But just as the average person who reads The New York Times isn’t reading 50 articles at a time, neither is the average student reading all of the Collegian at once.”

Emphasizing a couple of stories a day provides “a continuous line of stories, although we’re a weekly paper.”

Engaging the readers. In addition to written stories, the Collegian has put its video abilities to good use. Go to YouTube and take a look at “19 Things Butler Students Don’t Say,” a funny video that already has been viewed more than 4,000 times. (Some things students don’t say include “That line at Starbucks is always so short” and “Man, I cannot believe how quickly Sunset got built.”) Wyllie said students in one college might not know what their counterparts in another college are doing, but a video like this shows them what they have in common.

Wyllie said all the Collegian’s extracurricular efforts started with a question: How do you reach out to the community?

And what did the staff conclude? “You have to get to know them,” he said. “You have to be a part of their lives.”